This week’s headline quotes Eran Ben-Joseph, the head of MIT’s Urban Studies and Planning Department, on the introduction of a new Urban Science undergraduate major that brings together existing content from programs in urban planning and computer science to help students become better scientists, planners, and policy makers (Wired “Cities are watching you—Urban Sciences graduates watch back”).
You can always check out the Center's trend collection to see how this scanning comes together to identify trends relevant to our futures. The Center's trend cards are also available to help you talk with colleagues and members of the community, map how trends fit together or how they fit into your community, or spark innovation activities.
What have you read lately to help you think about the future? Consider dropping me a line to let me know what articles and reports you're reading that others might find of interest.
A quick scheduling note – I will be out of the office next week, so there will not be a post the week of July 9th.
CNET “Kroger, Nuro to test driverless grocery delivery this year”
The Kroger grocery chain announced a partnership with Nuro, maker of the R1 electric driverless delivery vehicle, that will let shoppers place same-day delivery orders through Kroger's ClickList ordering system and Nuro's app and have deliveries dispatched via the R1 – regulatory approval is still in the works. See also ArsTechnica, Engadget, Mashable, TechCrunch, The Verge, and Wired.
ArsTechnica “Talking to Google Duplex: Google’s human-like phone AI feels revolutionary”
A closer look at Google’s Duplex AI system for accomplishing real-world tasks over the phone – the company opened the technology up for demonstration to a small group of reporters. See also The Daily Dot, Engadget, Motherboard, ReCode, TechCrunch, and The Verge.
Quartz “The US startup is disappearing”
A new Brookings Institution report finds that in nearly every industry, from agriculture to finance, the share of new companies is falling as startups struggle in an era of rising market concentration.
Wired “Cities are watching you—Urban Sciences graduates watch back”
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology will launch a new undergraduate major called Urban Science that combines data analytics training with the sort of informed policy knowledge offered in typical Urban Studies programs – the program will explore both the technologies (Wifi networks, smart traffic lights, security cameras, cell phones, ride hailing services) and the changing human needs that will drive the future of cities.
Quartz “Boeing is making a long-term play for hypersonic travel—but will passengers ever pay for it?”
At the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics conference in Atlanta, Boeing unveiled its concept for a hypersonic jet intended for commercial passenger travel that would allow passengers to fly at five times the speed of sound (roughly 3,800 miles per hour) and reach Tokyo from Los Angeles in three hours – the implementation of this technology could be two to three decades away, but Boeing has made clear that it’s working on something the market may not quite be ready for. See also The Daily Star.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
TechXplore “'Breakthrough' algorithm exponentially faster than any previous one”
Computer scientists at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a completely new kind of algorithm that exponentially speeds up computation by dramatically reducing the number of parallel steps required to reach a solution – sequential algorithms solve a problem by following a sequential step-by-step process proportional to the size of the data, but this new approach to algorithms samples a variety of directions in parallel, discarding low-value directions from its search space and choosing the most valuable directions to progress towards a solution.
Communities and Demographics
GeekWire “Supreme Court upholds Trump’s travel ban after long battle with states, activists and tech industry”
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld President Donald Trump’s executive order that temporarily restricts travel from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen – the travel ban was opposed by progressive politicians and technology companies like Amazon, Airbnb, and Expedia. See also The Associated Press, CNET, and The New York Times.
Economics and the Workforce
The New York Times “Supreme Court ruling delivers a sharp blow to labor unions”
In a 5-to-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that government workers who choose not to join unions may not be required to help pay for collective bargaining, saying that requiring payments to unions that negotiate with the government forces workers to endorse political messages that may be at odds with their beliefs – the ruling means that public-sector unions across the nation, already under political pressure, could lose tens of millions of dollars and see their effectiveness diminished. See also The Hechinger Report and NPR and again.
Fast Company “Amazon wants its delivery network to include hundreds of startups”
Amazon announced its Delivery Service Partners program that will engage hundreds of entrepreneurs across the U.S. to create small businesses to help Amazon’s distribution network grow – Amazon will provide not only stuff to deliver but also the back-end infrastructure needed to manage it; assistance with issues such as training, taxes, and payroll processing; and discounts on insurance, fuel, and truck leasing. See also CNET, Engadget, Mashable, ReCode, and TechCrunch.
The Chronicle of Higher Education “Trump wants to drastically alter the Education Dept. Here’s what you need to know.”
The Trump administration’s proposed Department of Education and the Workforce would merge the Education and Labor Departments, as part of a broader overhaul of the federal government – the merger was proposed during the 2016 campaign and reflects the closer relationship of education and work in the current national policy conversation. See also NPR.
Pew Research Center “Public attitudes toward technology companies”
A Pew Research Center survey, conducted May 29 - June 11 among 4,594 U.S. adults, finds that 74% of Americans say major technology companies and their products and services have had more of a positive than a negative impact on their own lives and 63% think the impact of these companies on society as a whole has been more good than bad – 43% of Americans think major technology firms support the views of liberals over conservatives and 72% of the public thinks it likely that social media platforms actively censor political views that those companies find objectionable.
TechCrunch “Instagram Lite quietly launches to find a billion more users abroad”
Instagram quietly launched a new version of its app, Instagram Lite, designed to address many problems common among mobile users in the developing world who are often on older phones with less storage space, slower network connections, or who can’t afford big data packages.
The Verge “Facebook abandons quest to build its own internet drones”
Facebook announced that it is no longer pursuing its plan of developing its own drones for delivering internet, an initiative within its Aquila project that was started four years ago – now, instead of building aircraft of its own, Facebook says it will focus on working with partners on high-altitude internet delivery systems and on policy matters related to securing spectrum and establishing federal rules around the operation of such systems. See also CNET, Fast Company, and The Verdict.
The Verge “Facebook is testing a way to mute keywords”
Facebook announced it is testing a snooze option, which will allow users to temporarily hide any posts from their timeline that contain keywords they’ve marked – the feature expands on an option to snooze all content from an individual for 30 days that has been available since last December. See also CNET, Engadget, Gizmodo, and TechCrunch.
News and Publishing
Poynter “News outlets join forces to track down children separated from their parents by the U.S.”
BuzzFeed News, ProPublica, The Intercept, Univision, Mexican news site Animal Político, Guatemalan site Plaza Pública, and El Salvador’s El Faro announced that they are partnering to gather vital information about the children in immigration detention facilities and shelters, asking readers for tips and information. See also Nieman Lab.
Metro “Facebook wants to hide inaudible messages in TV ads that force your phone to record audio”
Facebook filed a patent application for a software which would secretly order users’ smartphones to start recording audio whenever they hear inaudible messages hidden in television advertisements – as with other patent applications, the appearance of the filing does not mean the company intends to proceed with the technology. See also Gizmodo.
The Economist “Netflix is moving television beyond time-slots and national markets”
A detailed look at how Netflix changed the television and film industries by focusing on a frequently renewed range of programming and an understanding of its consumers that lets them know the specific types of content that will be of most interest.
CNET “Apple reportedly mulling single subscription offering, a la Amazon Prime”
Apple is reportedly exploring a single subscription offering that would combine its music service, original TV shows, and magazine offerings, following a model similar to Amazon's Prime service, which offers subscribers access to music, movies, and TV shows, as well as free two-day shipping.